Red Pepper Bisque

Red Pepper Bisque
Recipe Type: Soup
Author: from Linda Carucci, of COPIA, the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts
Serves: 4-6
Note from Linda Carucci: For the past several years, this has been the workhorse recipe I use in my Cooking Basics classes to teach the concept of seasoning to taste. It’s a fairly simple recipe for beginner cooks to replicate at home. A bisque (pronounced bisk) is a smooth, puréed soup, often made with seafood, and usually enriched with cream. When made with lobster or shrimp, a bisque is sometimes thickened or enriched by adding a tablespoon or so of raw white rice when the stock is added. The rice disintegrates as the soup cooks, releasing its starch and thickening the soup in the process. Given the texture of peppers or mushrooms, it’s not necessary to add rice to a bisque made with either of these vegetables, but a little cream goes a long way to enhance the “mouth-feel” of a bell pepper or mushroom bisque. To enhance the satisfying sensation of umami, this vegetable bisque is prepared with chicken stock. But, if you prefer a vegetarian soup, simply substitute commercial or homemade vegetable broth for the chicken stock. The amount of salt you’ll need when seasoning to taste depends on the saltiness of your stock.
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped (if you don’t plan to strain the soup, peel celery before chopping)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 medium red bell peppers (about 1 3/4 pounds), stemmed, seeded, and chopped into 1-inch pieces
  • About 4 cups chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium, if canned
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • About 2/3 cup crème fraîche or sour cream, stirred to a smooth consistency, for garnish
  1. Place a heavy 4-quart pot over medium-high heat. Add the olive oil. When oil is hot enough to sizzle a piece of carrot, add the carrots, onions, and celery. Sauté until carrots turn bright orange and onions become translucent, about 8 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper and add the bell peppers. When the peppers start to soften, after about 5 minutes, add enough stock to just cover the vegetables and bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until carrots and peppers are soft, about 30 minutes.
  2. In a stand blender, purée soup in batches until very smooth: Blend just 2 cups at a time and hold down the blender lid as you slowly increase and decrease the speed. Alternatively, purée with an immersion blender. If desired, strain puréed soup through a medium-mesh strainer into a clean pot. As you strain the soup, extract as much pulp as possible from the solids by pressing on them with the bottom of a ladle.
  3. Stir in heavy cream and season to taste with kosher salt and black pepper, as well as additional cayenne pepper, if desired. If necessary, reheat soup over low heat, stirring constantly. Ladle soup into warm bowls and drizzle with crème fraîche or garnish with a dollop of sour cream.
  4. Variation
  5. Substitute unseasoned Roasted Peppers–red, yellow or green–for the raw bell peppers. If you plan to strain the soup, you needn’t peel the peppers after roasting them.
  6. Secrets
  7. • This recipe calls for 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper. The smaller amount will simply add a note of complexity without the heat. More makes the soup spicy.
  8. • If you double a recipe that calls for spicy-hot ingredients such as cayenne pepper, don’t double the spicy ingredients. The capsaicin (pronounced cap-SAY-ih-sin), which gives cayenne and other hot spices their heat, increases exponentially as you add more of the spice. Start with “one times” the cayenne, and, if desired, add more when you season the soup at the end.